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Vaxart announces its COVID-19 vaccine has been selected by US Operation Warp Speed programme

Published on 29/06/20 at 11:27am
Photo By: Kevin Fleming

Vaxart has announced the selection of its lead vaccine candidate for COVID-19 by Operation Warp Speed, a program to find a vaccine for the US by the end of the year.

The company said its potential vaccine has been selected to be used in a non-human primate study. Their candidate is based on Vaxart’s VAASTT oral vaccines platform, which uses adenovirus type 5 (Ad5) as a delivery system for its treatment. In its first round of preclinical testing, all animals that received one of the Vaxart vaccines had IgG anti-SARS CoV-2 antibodies in serum two weeks after the first vaccination. The antibody responses in groups who received the vaccine were significant compared to those who did not.

Andrei Floroiu, Vaxart’s Chief Executive Officer, said he was pleased that company was selected for Operation Warp Speed, and said their room temperature-stable tablet form provides it with an enormous advantage in shipping the vaccine to territories that don’t have refrigeration capabilities.

Floroiu said in a statement: “SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is primarily transmitted by viral particles that enter through the mucosa - nose, mouth or eyes - strongly suggesting that mucosal immunity could serve as the first line of defense.”

Operation Warp Speed was unveiled last month, and likened to the Manhattan Project, America’s secret development of the atom bomb during the Second World War. It is hoping to accelerate the production of a vaccine to be made widely available across the country by the end of the year.

It is being led by Dr Moncef Slaoui the former head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine division. During his time at GSK, Slaoui oversaw vaccine pipelines that produced Rotarix, used to prevent diarrhoea in infants, and Cervarix, used to protect against a viral infection that can lead to cervical cancer. He left the company in 2017 and joined the board of Moderna.

Operation Warp Speed will also be led by General Gustave Perna, a four star US General, who has served as the Commander of the US Army Materiel Command, which manages the service’s supply chain across the world, since 2016. He was previously the Army’s deputy Chief of Staff.

Conor Kavanagh

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